Teaching Students to Evaluate Their Own Writing

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Students who can evaluate their own writing are better equipped to independently produce polished and communicative pieces. This lesson gives you some ideas about how to help students assess their own work.

Why Self-Evaluation?

Writing is such an important skill to develop, yet there are few writers in the world who write without also engaging in extensive revision and editing processes. One of the best things we as teachers can do is to help students evaluate, or assess and adjust, their own writing. Self-evaluating is challenging. It forces students to

  • Spend more time on their work than they might otherwise devote
  • Attempt objectivity in relation to their own creations
  • Be honest about their weaknesses as well as their strengths

Students who can evaluate their own writing are more independent and better able to complete polished pieces. As a result, they also become more confident as both writers and critics.

Like so many skills, self-evaluation works best when taught explicitly. Students benefit from particular structured strategies as they are learning to evaluate their own work.

Using a Rubric or Checklist

One of the best ways to help students learn self-evaluation is to offer them a rubric or checklist to work with. Checklists give students a specific set of criteria to look for in their writing while rubrics are essentially charts that delineate expectations for a piece of work based on a variety of categories. An examples is pictured below.


A solid rubric will be detailed enough in its explanation of expectations that students will simply be able to read it alongside their writing and judge whether or not the piece meets the criteria in question.

Rubrics and checklists can be created by the teacher or by the class as a whole, and they can be general enough to apply to all writing or specific enough to answer to the expectations of a particular assignment. Students using rubrics and checklists should be encouraged to reread their work multiple times as they relate it to different questions or criteria on the rubric or checklist they are using.

Becoming an Imaginary Audience

A less structured way to help students evaluate their own writing is simply to teach them to read their work while taking on the perspective of an imaginary audience. This strategy works well with young children who are stimulated via the opportunity to pretend, but it can also work with older students who might be writing with new audiences in mind.

In this strategy, you ask your students to separate themselves from the piece of writing and imagine they are a specific other person. Then, they must reread the work from that person's point of view and try to understand what that audience would or would not take away from the work. This strategy enables students to evaluate the effectiveness of their communication and the clarity of their writing.

Using Reflective Questionnaires

A major part of writing also includes reflection, and you can give students reflective questionnaires as a way to help them think back over their writing process and evaluate their work. Reflective questionnaires ask students to assess what they did well in the writing process and what was challenging or what they think went poorly.

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